Strike People Out: How to Protect Your Arm (PART 1)
Warm-up ; 2 Out Drills ; Cool-down : The Things We Need But Don’t Make Time For
Let’s think about this: there are 2-3 million youth baseball injuries a year, costing over 1billion dollars annually in medical costs. If you play from youth to high school consistently, you have a 51% chance of getting hurt. In comparison, 15-19 year olds account for 57% of all Tommy John surgeries in the country. Of all the variables at play, pitching while fatigued can increase the likelihood of injury 36 times. Fatigue can be greatly related to overuse, lack of rest, playing on multiple teams, and using the arm to throw repeatedly, versus using the whole body to throw. Race car analogies are great because everyone can relate to how a car functions and it can only function as a whole via the sum of it’s parts. And let’s face it, people only watch NASCAR for the wrecks anyway. Consider this: the tire is the athlete’s arm and the lug nuts are the shoulder. Before the race, the team takes about 30 seconds to make sure the lug nuts are somewhat snug, but they don’t want to spend too much time on them because they arrived late and were just excited about racing. The race begins and the driver starts getting behind because the engine wasn’t properly tuned. Not only that, but the lugs that were just lightly tightened also start to loosen. The driver is falling further behind and because of this, he starts to hammer down the gas and use as much engine (effort) as he can to catch up, pushing the car to its limits. Before he knows it, the engine is smoking and the lugs are flying into the stands. You get the point. Your body is a machine! Not only does your arm need to be prepared to throw, but so does the entire human kinetic chain from your foot to your wrist. The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and 38 tendons attached to it. IT IS IMPORTANT. Not only that, but we want the athlete to throw with their big muscles, not their arm. If it is not fully tuned, primed, taken care of, oil changed, diagnostics ran, then it will not run optimally. Athletes use only their arm to throw when they fall behind in the count and are not prepared to use their whole body. They try to speed up arm action to throw faster out of frustration and pressure to perform. This is a terrible recipe for arm health. You can’t throw a baseball 95mph if your hips only allow 83mph. Here is how you truly prime the machine for performance in 5 easy steps…all to be done before a ball is touched.
1. Increase Core Temperature
- Anything to get the body sweating - keep it general: jogging, locomotion variations, jumping jack variations, pivot variations, SFT hip drivers. Could be more or less for hot vs cold weather.
2. Dynamic Flexibility
- Prime the body through dynamic ranges of motion similar to those that will be experienced in throwing: wide squat holds, traveling gorilla lunges, worlds greatest stretch, half-kneeling t-spine stretch or side lying wind mills.
3. Key Musculature Activation
- Core, Glutes, and Hamstrings are huge players in throwing and must be turned on: lunges in various directions, squats in various
positions, on ground core work such as prone bridge, side bridge or glute bridge
4. Movement Integration
- This is the first time things should start to look like throwing: arm circles, field goals, single leg balance with arm swings, follow through position with arm swings, dynamic skipping at various speeds and ranges of motion
5. Neural Preparation
- Lastly, this should take the shortest amount of time. This is something with high CNS demand to rev up the neural system such as a plyometric vertical or horizontal jump, a 3D leap, or a reactive SFT pogo matrix. This is also where you would include some type of ploy-care throw if you have already been using them in your off-season and pre-season training.
2 Out Drills
As stated before, some innings go longer than others. This is when it is important to be present in the game, and to really learn and know your body. If the inning is brief, you may need less. If the inning is long and its cold outside, you may need more. This is by and large, a feel thing. Also, this is highly dependent on your aerobic fitness as this will play a role in keeping your core temperature up. These drills should be performed around the time of the 2nd out of the inning. Again, this means you have to stay engaged and need to adapt your pace to the pace of the game. When batters get on base, slow it down. If there are 2 strikes on the board, speed it up. You need to make sure not only the arm, but your big prime movers are ready to go: hips, thoracic spine, scapular complex, and shoulder/elbow/wrist. Exercises need to be efficient and effective. The expectation is to be able to do exercises in less than 2 minutes.
1. 3D leg swings
2. On ground SFT hip drivers
1. On wall t-spine
2. On ground cat camel
1. Arm circles in/out
2. Field goals
3. Follow through position SFT arm swings
1. Romanov elbow extended pull wrist down and up
Pitchers, most often, finish the game and finish the day. This is a habit young athletes need to change. Proper cool down can come in several forms, but need to work on the following qualities.
1. Restore tissue quality and translation to effected areas (foam roll or trigger point all tight, tired, or sticky areas). This will help re-hydrate effected tissues. Big players - lower leg and calf of lead leg, hip flexors, groin, glute complex, lats, anterior/posterior shoulder, and infraspinatus (back of shoulder blade), teres major/minor (back of armpit).
2. Get blood flow to the shoulder and elbow complex to begin the recovery process - bands and arm care, 5-10 second isometric holds at end range, plyo-care upaward tosses, upper body flexibility, including but not limited to, internal rotation. (If available, units such as Marc Pro and Noramtec massage might be good options). I would not recommend icing, as this constricts blood vessels and can actually negatively impact the recovery process. For more information I would recommend ICED! By Gary Reinl.
3. Static flexibility with focused breathing. After the body has been sympathetic the whole game or in fight mode, it is good to relax the body to help it get into a recovery mode. Taking 2-3 minutes and holding some easy static stretches, while also focusing on controlled breathing (in through the nose and out through the mouth at minimum 5 in 5 out) will begin this process. Target hips, lats, and shoulder horizontal adduction.
4. Post game nutrition - hydrate, protein and carbohydrate drink, foods rich in omega 3’s (walnuts, non fried fish, avocado, coconut oil) All of these strategies will help normalize the recovery process and help get unwanted inflammation out of the system.
Yes I know, you don’t have time for this. You have to get home for homework, you have to catch the bus, you didn’t play well so you are frustrated, you have to get to the concession stand for a snow cone. But as your coach, I don’t want to hear about how you are underachieving, how you are always sore or tight. or how your arm hurts.
Follow-up in a week for part 2 on Lifestyle Choices: Sleep, Hydration, Nutrition.
Director of Training - APEC
CSCS-RSCC, CAFS, CFSC, PES, POSE, GI-GPS, USAW